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n World War II I had a peculiar status with the Air Corps. I started as a civilian supplier of experimental equipment, made by my Company, the Hammond Instrument Company. And the Company made a large number of clocks for the armed forces in this country and an organ for just about every chapel at the army camps in the United States and many abroad. Then it was requested by the Government to change over its operations to the manufacture of radio transmitters and this it did through the rest of the war. But I had given my services over almost entirely to the Air Force and as time went on I became more and more involved with the actual development work and eventually had a considerable number of people following my instructions in doing a great deal of experimental work. This work was always done at airfields where nothing but experimental work was done: Elgin Field in Florida at the beginning and later, Tonopah, Nevada.
I had no title, a thing that was wonderful. I had all these priorities so that I could get on an airplane and go anywhere. And I was the first man who introduced the idea of guided missiles, which is now the great thing. And we built these devices and it was fantastic the things we did. And it makes a very amusing story. Because you see, who was I? Well I was Mr. Hammond of the Hammond Organ. And who are you? I'm Major General such and such. And when he would urge we do this that and the other, why I could talk to him, whereas the people in the army couldn't. I would say, "Now General, Have you kept up with your calculus?" "If I explain in these terms, do you understand?" And of course he'd say, "Not in those terms...not any more, but, try and explain to me."
And then I'd say, "What do you really know about this?" I was in charge and that was the thing that was so wonderful, because I could sass anybody.
In 1936 I had gone to Europe with my wife and our so-called European representative- to set up deals for our organs to be manufactured in Europe. John Hanert, my employee who played the organ so well, was with us. It was in the fall, and I remember we heard in Paris the cries of newsvendors that F.D.R. had been re-elected. By that time, Hitler had the Black Shirts and was running around and making a great to-do. And while we were there, it was obvious that Germany was going to go to war, because we saw people practicing all these maneuvers in the fields. The thing that impressed me the most was that they had a little four-wheel-drive thing kind of like a jeep and two of them would run up so they were kind of touching at the front wheels. And the men would jump out and put a cable from this one to that one that held their fronts together. And then they'd start the wheels and the thing would stand up on its end and wind up as a pillbox, with the machine gun which had been on the top of each one now on both sides of the pillbox. And it was the most startling things, and as we drove along we could see them doing all this. And Hitler was marching about and people were very scared to offend Hitler, because if anybody seemed to be against Hitler his secret police would call in the very early morning at his house and the person would disappear. People were afraid to mention anything and it was a terrible thing.
Before I could even contact them, a big German music firm told us that they would like to see us because their government had told them that they must make electric organs. Somebody from Hitler's outfit had said, "Of course Germany is the music center of the world- nobody can make music like we do- all other music is nonsense compared to German- and if there is an electric organ satisfactory from the esthetic viewpoint, Germany must make it."
I went out to see the President of the company and he said, "Well, now, Mr. Hammond, I don't run this company any more in any real sense. I am head of it and I can of course hire and fire people but I really get my orders direct from members of the Nazi party, and they are always coming in here and telling me what to do and I have to do it. But I don't any longer know in who's interest I am working. Now, they told me to make organs so we will make organs. (If it was my decision, I wouldn't make organs now.) But I finally decided that I am working in the interest of the employees of the organization. After all, we've all worked here throughout their working life. So I've decided that whatever does best for the employees, that's what I want to do and it's on that basis that I judge everything."
It was so evident that Hitler had taken over everything. And everybody was sure there would be a war coming. And F.D.R. ultimately in June, 1940, established an agency called the National Defense Research Council that had its main offices in Washington, and he put at the head of it Vannevar Bush. I don't think the American public will ever realize what Vannevar Bush did to help us win the war. In a technical sense, he did more than anyone else, fashioning the weapons that won the war. Vannevar Bush was a very peculiar man with a tremendous mechanical sense- altogether an extraordinary man.
The object of the Council was to prepare, invent and develop weapons of an advanced type, something that had never been made before so that the United States would be technically as far ahead as possible. When it was established, I received a letter from Vannevar Bush describing the Council and saying its object was to get people who were competent to suggest ideas or put in work or do whatever they could to promote new weapons for the United States, and that in order to do that, he had contacted certain well-known personalities like Mr. Kettering, who was in charge of research at General Motors and was altogether a remarkable man, and played a great role in my life for awhile. And Mr. Kettering had suggested my name.
Well I was charmed with this idea, to be invited to invent something and to do something useful for the war effort at the same time. And I wrote a long, elaborate paper, in which I said that bombing as far as I have learned is a very inaccurate thing and much better than just dropping bombs would be to drop bombs that had a specific target; and therefore I proposed the general idea of guided missiles, and my paper went into the different forms that guided missiles could have, and different schemes that could be used to guide them.
Well when Vannevar Bush got this he apparently was very much impressed with it. And he showed it around to a lot of different people. And showing it around, some way or other, the manuscript was lost. They couldn't find it. And that made Bush so mad. But anyhow, by that time, he understood the whole idea and he said, "Well, I think your idea is wonderful; are you willing to work on this yourself?"
And I said, "Yes, I will work on it."
So he said, "Well I will fit you up with a government contract that you are to proceed in the general realm of guided missiles, and that the government will pay all reasonable expenses that you might want to go ahead with, developing; and for that purpose I have two men here who are well known physicists of Boston- " I think they were from M.I.T.
The first working scheme that I went to Vannevar Bush about was a heat detector. It was extremely sensitive; it could determine the temperature of everything far away. I had developed this in Chicago where I had it focused on the Intake Building out in the Lake about three miles. That is a big building where they took in drinking water for the city. And I had this thing focused on a brick wall of this building. They had a telephone there. So I called them up and said, "I am working for the National Defense Research Council, an organization of the government which does hush-hush work and I can't explain to you exactly what this is about, but I have a device in the building here which I have focused on the brick wall of your place. And I'd be very grateful to you if you'd go out there and put a good thermometer there- if you don't have one, I'll send you one- just fasten it on the building, facing the place where I am in the apartment building right opposite you. And then if you don't mind every once in awhile, I don't want to pester you too often, but every once in awhile I'll call you to see if my readings correspond to the readings of the thermometer. I know this is an annoyance to you, but this is government work and its important in its way." And he did, and I was able to check the accuracy of my device at a distance of three miles. I could ascertain the termperature three miles away within two degrees.
Well they asked me to demonstrate this heat measuring device, and I made several trips to Boston and had gotten an airplane that could have a hole cut in the bottom of it so that I could look straight down. And we flew out over Boston Harbor to see if I could locate ships at sea in the dark by this device. I thought of the garbage scows that were towed out to sea at night from Boston, and I was flying around to see if I could detect the temperature of the garbage boats as being different from the sea. Well I was absolutely amazed because for a long time I would fly over where I knew there were garbage boats and it wouldn't show at all and I just couldn't understand it.
Finally we went down there and got some Navy or Coast Guard boat to take me out and see what the temperature of those garbage boats was. And actually the way it worked was that there was so much spray on these garbage scows that they were always wet with the sea; with the waves splashing over them, their temperature was indistinguishable from the sea. So I felt less bad about it. We could get a reading on the tugs, but not on the scows.
I proposed that this device, which was going to be something that was to guide a flying bomb to hit another airplane, would be this heat seeker. And of course it finally resulted, in the hands of experimenters that followed- in what is called a "side-winder". The side-winder nowadays, since we've learned about rockets and everything, has a small rocket which can fly at speed vastly greater than that of any ordinary airplane. And it is steered by a heat-seeker. And the heat-seeker- no matter what its target is, reaches it from behind and goes right up the exhaust. It hits with considerable reliablility. It wasn't developed operationally in that war but later with very much greater refinement.
There are so many ways that you can plan a guided missile. One way that I could think of is that you have the bomb under Flying Fortresses and you have equpment with which you can see the target. And when you can see the target on an oscilloscope, then you would drop the bomb. But the best way to do it, I felt, was to have the bomb carry a television transmitter and you in the airplane have a TV viewing set so that you see as if you were flying the bomb yourself. Now in that case, all you have to do is just like you would if you were a pilot steering an aircraft. That of course was the fanciest system that we could think of at that time, and we suggested to RCA that we would like a television device to put on the front of these bombs. And RCA said, "Well, we are delighted that you want to do that. We will supply any amount of this equipment at very low cost, because we want to develop a television transmitter for the public to be used after the war, and receivers to be used in the home. And we have to decide a great many questions: how many lines, what will the frequencies involved be, and so forth. Now if we can produce a picture that a pilot would be satisfied with to be able to guide this thing, then that's exactly what we want. And we will supply that kind of equipment to you and you can put it on your devices and try it out." So we had the promise right away that RCA would develop a television receiver.
t that time there were no telvision receivers; there was no system that was going to supply the American public with television. Great basic questions still had to be decided which stil haven't been decided in different parts of the world. The French have one system, the Germans another and so on. But there were no practical television sets then. RCA would develop them for us.
So I thought, in the meantime I can demonstrate what a guided missile might be. I can't make a practical device that the enemy couldn't "jam", but I can make a device and put it in a box- an instrument that will oscillate back and forth and will produce a signal every time it passes any discontinuity in the background. For example, looking at the sea, if there was a ship, every time it went across the ship, it'd make a blip; and i could shake it both up and down, and right and left at the same time and therefore i could recover a signal which would say that the target that you want is to your right or left and or above your line of flight or its below. And that's the kind of thing I could do.
Dayton was the big center of aviation conracts. In the morning, long trains would come in. Out of them would come all these factory representatives going in to try to secure orders for something the Air Corps wanted. And I joined that general mell, hoping to talk to somebody who was in charge of this kind of thing. I had already received a maximum security clearance. And after much passing around I finally got to a man who was then only a Captain. His name was Holloman. He's the man the Holloman Air Base in California was later named after.
Holloman was a bright young man who had done some work for Arnold, the Head of the Air Corps. Arnold had gotten an idea of his own. He said, instead of flying bombers into places where you're going to get shot down and lose a lot of people, what we want to do is take 2000-pound bombs and fasten some kind of wings on them, such that they will glide. Then we'll fasten them under a B-17 that can carry two of them and you will go toward some enemy place that you want to hit, and then the lead bombardier, when the proper time comes, will say, Bombs away! And everybody will drop their 2000-pound bomb and all I ask is that the bomb fly, not fall over- fly straight so that you're just aiming this thing at a place that is far away. He said the bombs ought to have a flight path of about one in fifteen (that is it would drop one thousand feet in every fifteen thousand fee of flight). We could fly the B-17's up to around 25,000 feet (that was about as high as we could go in those days). "Then," he said, "these bombs will fly straight and all presumably arrive in the same sort of cluster and just raise holy hell on some particular target. And meanwhile, everybody will just turn back." The bombs could be turned loose about 75 miles away from their target.
Arnold knew Holloman because Holloman was a radio bug and knew a lot about electronics and he was the first man who had two-way conversation between an airplane and somebody on the ground (who was actually Arnold- they took turns). And the Air Force brass were tremendously impressed with that, and Arnold said, that is the missing link in aviation and immediately turned him into a Captain, and he put him in charge of developing this flying bomb. And he said, "You can get very high priority. You have to have gyroscopes- but you can get gyroscopes from Sperry-- the little gyroscopes that are used in turn and bank indicators which are in every airplane. "I'll write you an order", said Arnold, and give it very high priority, and you can get a few turn and bank indicators and see if you can't fix up a crude kind of a pilot."
But after a while someone from the Department of Army Procurement went to Arnold and said, "You're sending these turn and bank indicators to Captain Holloman. Well, their only source is Sperry and you can't put a new company into making them for many months. In the meantime, every turn and bank indicator that you send down there means one less airplane; do you realize that?"
Well, Arnold was an intelligent man, and when he undderstood the situation he said, "Well, that's that. I was very hopeful of this idea, but when you put it that way, of course we'll have to stop." And I arrived just about two or three days after Holloman had received this awful news that there were going to be no more gyros and therefore his enterprise had come to a total grinding halt.
I said, "Well look, I came to talk to you about something entirely different, but you're in trouble here and I can probably help you. These Sperry gyroscopes that you are using are capable of operation for thousands of hours- but all that you want for these winged bombs is something that will operate for an hour at most. Now there is a principle by which I can make 'dime store' gyros for you, they are crude, but which will run for the brief period you need. Instead of those precision made frictionless ball bearing mountings, we'll make them dynamically out of balance so they chatter and that will compensate for the problem of friction and insure that they will keep their direction as Gyroscopes should as long as they revolve.
Now I'll go back and make a few of these things, and I promise to reappear in about two weeks with something you can at least try." All of which was of course marvellous for Holloman. And I did and came back with about six cheap little gyros to put in his control box: little direct current motors (built for toys) on which I had put a flywheel. I saw to it that they were out of balance and they rattled when run.
Holloman's group had a machine for testing gyros, a table which turned and tipped slowly in different directions, and they all went over and put my dvice on it. But they finally realized that all this funny tipping and turning was nothing compared to the shaking that I was already giving the thing by simply making it out of balance. And my "dime-store" gyro passed the test with flying colors and we made a number of them at my factory.
He was using two gyros per bomb- one supposed to keep it from veering off to left or right, and the other to keep it from heading upwards or down. And when I found this out, I felt there was something wrong in this, as they worked together to turn the ailerons one way of the other. I was sure one gyro would do it. And that turned out to be true. You had to put it on a different axis- such that if you turn to the right, you produce an effect, and if you find the right angle, one gyro should do it. And the subsequent winged bombs- of which several thousand were made- had only one gyro.
So I helped Holloman out of his crisis about his gyro and the fellow was just infinetly grateful. He said, "This is a most marvellous thing and now what was it that you wanted to do when you first came here?"
And I said, "Well, to demonstrate the principle of guided missiles. And my idea of a demonstration is to take an airplane and pretend that the airplane is the guided missile. So what I would want would be the use of a two-engine Cessna airplane and a pilot, of course, and I will build a demonstrating device which will fasten on the front, between the motors, where there's nothing it's just a round end- I'll make a plastic substitute for the front end of a Cessna airplane and in that plastic thing I will put various devices which will operate on the discontinuity principle- the thing will shake right and left, and up and down and the device will be designed to pick out something from the ocean, because the ocean is a more or less uniform field. Of course there are white caps and all that, but a boat of any size is certainly a discontinuity and if the boat is under way, it always has the beginning of a big white trail. And my device- we'll consider that we are in the guided missile, and the pilot will be there and I will sit beside him and I will have an oscilloscope and I will let this thing fly towards a boat. And when I see that it is working, that is, that every time it moves very violently from right to left, and back, then I will say to the pilot, "All right, let go- so anybody in the back seat will see that you're not flying the plane."
And what I did to make the device home in on a target was a very silly and simple thing. The airplane has a very fine gyro pilot in it, and all you ahve to do is to turn an adjust button to go right, or left, and the thing will immediately lean over and start going right or left. So I put on a gadget that had simply a lost motion affair, and as soon as there was a call for it to go to the left, this device would turn fast and put the plane into a steep bank to go left; and of course as soon as that happened, it gets another signal that says go right, and so that actually when we rode in this airplane later on it acted like the craziest thing you ever saw. If you'd ridden in the thing, you would think, "This is the absolute madhouse", because the airplane would lean way over like this, and then lean way over like that and then it would down-go-dive! It was an absolutely crazy ride. But of course, that is what completely stupified people, because later, when we got this whole thing all working, then everybody'd heard about it, and all the generals would come out and say, "We want to see this demonstration Mr. Hammond."
"Yes, Sir!" I'd say. "We can take two of you, that's all. There can be four in the airplane- you two will have to sit in the back seat. The pilot and I will sit in front. But you'll see exactly what we're doing." And we would go out looking for a boat, because this was all done at the flying field at Eglin, Florida, and it is next to the sea.
Well now, there's an island off shore and a good sized ferry runs back and forth every couple of hours that carries cars. And after we'd gotten this thing organized, we had been to see the ferryman, and we explained to him that we were going to be diving on his boat in an airplane and that we would practically land on it but that there was no risk for him whatever. Because, we explained, the pilot is there and I am beside him and the plane is being flown by a device but as we approach your boat, all the pilot has to do is pull back and instead of landing on your boat we'll fly right over the top of you.
And I said, "I think we'll fly over this afternoon, but you understand that there is a pilot sitting there, and all he has to do is pull back, and we won't land on you."
ventually we did this ad nauseam and he got completely accustomed to it and it just used to make him laugh and he had some notice that this ferry is likely at any time to be a mock target, but don't get scared. But if he had people on the ferry and they'd see this thing coming at them, they were likely to just go into fits. And the generals in the plane- one of them got so alarmed during the wild gyrations toward the ferry boat that he shouted, "Jesus Christ who's flying this plane?"
We found out that my oscilloscope could see boats when they were further away than we could see them by eye, which is quite a long way. But you couldn't have used my device to sink an enemy ship, because if anybody in a ship saw an airplane coming down on them, the first thing they would do would be to start shooting; and whenever they shot there would be a puff of white smoke and the thing would take off after that so it wasn't a practical weapon, so I had to tell generals about that. When they'd taken a ride they were all for loading Cessnas up with bombs and having the bombardier just bail out once the device "saw" the target, and they'd have people pick him up out of the water. So I'd have to explain about the puffs of smoke, and usually they'd tame down. This was, I explained, a demonstration of what guided missiles might do.
I said to the generals, "This is not the way to have a guided missile work. The way to have a guided missile work is to have a television camera in the missile, with a transmitter which will reproduce in the cabin of the airplane an image of what the bomb is seeing. Or, it could use radar", (which was just being developed then) "except that radar can be completely jammed by a mass of very thin, light metal stuff (like tape) thrown up in the air by a shell. But I am very pessimistic about our preparing very much because I think the war will end before we can produce anything that is operational and practical."
When I first got to Eglin Field, I met Mr. Kettering, who was one of the most amazing and attractive men I have ever known. The air Force had built two little houses to take care of visiting brass, and each house had two bedrooms, and each bedroom was a double bedroom with bath and they put Mr. Kettering and me in the same room.
And when the day's work was done and we'd had dinner we went to bed very early- you couldn't experiment at night down there, why, we would each get into bed and Mr. Kettering would talk and I would listen and he was so amusing I used to lie there and just fall apart listening to him talk. I suppose sometimes these after-bed conversations would last for an hour and a half. I never found out how much education he had had. He was so inventive, and he did so many things- everything that he touched, he more or less revolutionized. Many of the great inventors have been without any formal education- it is a peculiar thing, that springs from a natural genius for mechanics, understanding a thing as soon as you see it. The boy that has the actual inventing and engineering gift understands a thing practically as soon as he sees it without any explanation at all.
He was principal inventor of the National Cash Register in Dayton. He invented the automobile self-starter, the two-cycle diesel electric motor that is so much more economical that it replaced the steam engine all over the world. He was experimenting with little airplanes at Eglin Field, and he had all kinds of other ideas which helped me enormously with my work. He had devised a little motor which had a relay and would run first in one direction, then the other very quickly- like from now- to now-- to now- reversing direction each time. And those little things became marvellously useful in making the mechanism for glide bombs and such.
His wife could play organ and he had put a Hammond organ in his yacht. He had no precise alternating current on his yacht so we made something for him with a tuning fork which kept accurate frequency. And his wife would be up playing and Kettering below would stick a bit of chewing gum on the tuning fork, which lowered the pitch. Finally she learned what caused this and every time the pitch went down she would pound on the floor and he would have to take off the gum.
He was very much sought after for after-dinner talks and he went, partly because it was good advertising for General Motors, but mainly, I think, because he loved to talk.
My company used to send boxes with gyroscopes and such in them, consigned to me at Eglin Field, and on the outside of the case it would sometimes say 3B or 5B. That became a great joke, because a smart Sergeant discovered that 5B casually placed on the box meant that it contained five bottles of whiskey. I was a great whiskey drinker but mainly in the evening; after we were through work, I would invite different people to come over and have a drink, and doing that we consumed a hell of a lot of whiskey.
"Mr. Hammond, I know what 5B on those boxes means," said the Sergeant.
"You do?" said I. "Well don't tell everybody."
One day our unit had a setup to make a demonstration of the two winged bombs we had made for General Arnold - a demonstration to the generals who had come down to Eglin Field. We explained that we were going to go up and hit targets in the water by dropping controlled bombs. And they said, "Well, who's going to do the controlling?" And my people said, "Why, Mr. Hammond's going to do it."
"Oh, no, no, no!" they said. "Mr. Hammond is a peculiar fellow. We want to know whether the ordinary bombardier, if told what to do, can do it. So we'll supply the bombardier." well you couldn't argue with it- that was the army.
So Mayrath, an officer in my unit, was going along, and he said, "Well, Skipper, we'll show him the buttons and all we know, but I'm gonna shout to him, 'Now!; and the fellow will press the buttons, I hope- he really won't know very much."
Anyhow, they took off and flew in this flying fortress out over the sea. And shortly behind them came an airplane flying a bunch of brass who were going to witness the demonstration. Well, Mayrath said to the man, "Now these are the two buttons- this lets the left one go and this lets the right one go." (I heard it over the radio- I wasn't aboard). "Now I'll shout to you."
And the man said, "Do you mean these buttons?" And he put his fingers on the buttons. And they were nowhere near any target at all- but simultaneously both bombs fell off the bottom of the airplane- there was no possibility of their hitting anything at all. So then Mayrath, who was so mad about this, said over the radio, "Oh Skipper, you'll have to tell them about this, I can't tell 'em."
So I said, "All right- I'll tell them."
The generals came back and they said, "What happened?
And I was there to greet them, and I said, "Well, now, I will explain to you exactly what happened. You wanted this bombardier to fly, and he went up there on his own and he pressed the buttons long before he should have- and there went the bombs. As far as we're concereed that represents an awful lot of work and certainly $200,000. And that's just because you wanted it done that way." I loved to sass these generals so I went on: "Now the difficulty, Sir, is that you don't udnerstand the ordinary research and development that is done on all kinds of products, not just airplanes, but anything. You have to have experienced experimenters working- who have a plan and know how to carry it out- " and so on; I gave them a long lecture. They all ate very humble pie. Every one of them came up and said, "We're very sorry; excuse us, Mr. Hammond, and I hope you are able to get a new set of equipment soon."
And I said, "Well, it'll be some time" and so on.
I moved out to Tonopah, Nevada to develop the bomb that was to be guided with the help of television and radio. At Tonopah there are flat dry lakes, which fill up with water to a depth of two or three inches during a strong rainfull (which occurs very rarely) and then when it dries out it leaves a completely flat surface which extends for miles.
And it is flatter and bigger than any civilian airport that I have ever heard of and anything can be landed on it, and anything can take off. It is surprisingly hard. Well that's where the experiments with jet airplanes began. My boys didn't know about them at first- the first ones were English. Anyway a fellow who used to fly for me and was a tremendous pilot- he was one of the most acrobatic and skillful pilots- could do all kinds of strange things- he was whizzing along in the hottest combat airplane that there was at the time, something with two enormous engines. And he looked up and alongside of him came a vehicle that had a plexiglass top- you could see all through it- and inside was sitting a civilian smoking a cigar and he went by this hottest airplane just as if the thing was standing still. The manufacturers all had civilian test pilots who ran very real risks, and bought them the most fabulous amounts of life insurance for the benefit of their families.
Well, they moved our operation out there because of all the strange things we could do. You could take what was going to be a guided missile and test it in strange ways. You could take them up as high as any bomber could go, perhaps 30,000 feet and you could drop them straight down- they would go straight down and then be deflected by radio control and go shooting off parallel to the ground and just more or less let down, and nothing would happen to them; they wouldn't break because they'd finally skid to a stop along this ten mile landing field.
The great thing I was trying to do at that time was to drop bombs off the bottom of an airplane that had radio control. In other words, I could turn them right or left and up and down but that was all. Now the idea was some sort of flight pattern, which I thought would work, and in a few instances it did work and we did hit the target in the most amazing way, and everybody shouted with joy and said, "This is it!" But it's a very difficult thing to do. You have to keep both the target and the bomb in sight. And in order to keep the bomb in sight, I put a magnesium flare on the bomb. Well, I didn't realize-- that didn't develop until more recently-- that when a satellite returns from the moon and strikes the air and gets white hot, it emits a lot of electrons which black it out. They found that out-- but I didn't understand why whenever the flare went off (which of course was white hot) I would lose control-- simply because the radio control didn't work. We did have a number of successes with that technique, but it is difficult to do and hard to teach anybody, and I don't think that you could accomplish very much with it in warfare. Warfare, in my experience, has to be done on a reasonably straightforward basis where the average soldier can understand in general what he's trying to do. If you've ever been in a war and you get to where there's shooting and you're really in it, virtually every man is scared, virtually terrified- I know I was. And that alone prevents you from remembering any complicated thing you're supposed to do. It's all very straight forward so long as you know you're going to follow the Lieutenant over the top- you don't like to do it, but you will. But you've got to keep these things simple to operate.
They wanted me to lecture to a group of scientists about what the modern technology could then produce and I said to them, "One of the troubles that we have is that all these things are so complicated that somebody on the ground has to put them all together and test them, and it would need a tremendous number of PH.D's instead of soldiers." And they got so confused with all the lingo of the army that I heard one of them whisper to another, "What is a PH.D.?"
"You are, you fool," said his neighbor.
Finally came the time when RCA had succeeded in developing a television transmitter and receiver for our use, and we had successful tests of television controlled bombs. There you are miles away from the target, but there is a television camera in the nose of the bomb, and by television you see in your scope exactly what the bomb is pointing at and you control its flight by radio.
I had an oil barrell standing out in a field. We had driven out and shown everyone what this was, and it was also on a map. On the map also there was a river, and there was a railroad track, and the course was plotted to follow the river. When you saw the railroad tracks, turn left, follow the railroad tracks till you saw the beginning of a small wood. Just beyond there, the oil barrell stood. The whole course was plotted and that time it worked perfectly. But conditions, of course, were ideal for this test.And I flew in the airplane but I didn't control the bomb. I told Captain Mayrath to do it and I watched him. I had gotten so much annoyed with the army saying, "Well, we've heard a lot about this Mr. Hammond," so that I thought it was much better to have someone in the army do this- and then they couldd't say, "You've got your Houdini." I somehow acquired a reputation for doing things that were- sort of not expected.
We finally had one trial of this bomb over Germany. We loaded up the plane at Eglin Field with extra gas tanks to get it to France. The target was described to the pilot, but he had never actually seen it- he was poorly briefed. He was a Captain and a good Roman Catholic. He flew until he thought he saw the target. But the picture was poor and as I said, he had only had the target described to him and the poor fellow, seeing the top of a very large church thought that that was the target. He flew the bomb into the church and flattened it out- destroyed it. And the effect on him was horrible. He just felt awful- mea culpa- an unbelievably sad thing.
But when they had blown the first atomic bomb and the whole project was turned over to Major General Groves, I thought, this is the end of the line for me. My work is hopelessly outranked by this tremendous weapon. What was I doing with my paltry things, compared with what they had developed? Hitler, of course, was licked before that, and I knew that the war was nearly over. So I decided, I will simply sign off. I resigned and I have never done anything for the army since.
|Chapter XVII - After World War II||Index|
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